Autism Spectrum Disorder | ASD

"Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, “a spectrum,” of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability.

People with ASD often have these characteristics:

Ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others;
Repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities;
Symptoms that typically are recognized in the first two years of life;
Symptoms that hurt the individual’s ability to function socially, at school or work, or other areas of life.

Some people are mildly impaired by their symptoms, while others are severely disabled. Treatments and services can improve a person’s symptoms and ability to function. Families with concerns should talk to their pediatrician about what they’ve observed and the possibility of ASD screening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  around 1 in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD.

What is the difference between Asperger’s syndrome and ASD?

In the past, Asperger’s syndrome and Autistic Disorder were separate disorders. They were listed as subcategories within the diagnosis of “Pervasive Developmental Disorders.” However, this separation has changed. The latest edition of the manual from the American Psychiatric Association, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), does not highlight subcategories of a larger disorder. The manual includes the range of characteristics and severity within one category. People whose symptoms were previously diagnosed as Asperger’s syndrome or Autistic Disorder are now included as part of the category called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Signs and Symptoms

Parents or doctors may first identify ASD behaviors in infants and toddlers. School staff may recognize these behaviors in older children. Not all people with ASD will show all of these behaviors, but most will show several. There are two main types of behaviors: “restricted / repetitive behaviors” and “social communication / interaction behaviors.”

Restrictive / repetitive behaviors may include:

Repeating certain behaviors or having unusual behaviors
Having overly focused interests, such as with moving objects or parts of objects
Having a lasting, intense interest in certain topics, such as numbers, details, or facts.

Social communication / interaction behaviors may include:

Getting upset by a slight change in a routine or being placed in a new or overly stimulating setting
Making little or inconsistent eye contact
Having a tendency to look at and listen to other people less often
Rarely sharing enjoyment of objects or activities by pointing or showing things to others
Responding in an unusual way when others show anger, distress, or affection
Failing to, or being slow to, respond to someone calling their name or other verbal attempts to gain attention
Having difficulties with the back and forth of conversations
Often talking at length about a favorite subject without noticing that others are not interested or without giving others a chance to respond
Repeating words or phrases that they hear, a behavior calledecholalia
Using words that seem odd, out of place, or have a special meaning known only to those familiar with that person’s way of communicating
Having facial expressions, movements, and gestures that do not match what is being said
Having an unusual tone of voice that may sound sing-song or flat and robot-like
Having trouble understanding another person’s point of view or being unable to predict or understand other people’s actions.", 
http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/autism-spectrum-disorders-asd/index.shtml (April 27, 2016)

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
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